'It is the right time to help charities': ALP renews push for urgent fundraising reform
11 June 2020 at 4:37 pm
Advocates say fundraising reform is a zero-cost option to help a struggling sector
Labor MP Andrew Leigh has moved a private member’s motion calling on the government to fix the nation’s “outdated patchwork” of fundraising laws before the Christmas giving season.
During a speech to the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Leigh said the government’s inaction on fundraising reform was costing Australian charities more than $1 million every month.
He noted a recent Social Ventures Australia (SVA) report that looked at the effects of COVID-19 on the sector and warned hundreds of thousands of charity jobs could be lost if something wasn’t done soon.
“Charities are the safety net for people who fall through the cracks, and yet the government’s JobKeeper program will only assist one in 13 charities,” Leigh said.
“But there are other ways in which the government could help this most trusted sector. One of those is to reform Australia’s outdated patchwork of fundraising laws.”
Charities have long complained about the current framework of fundraising regulations that require charities to register with seven different fundraising regimes.
Leigh’s motion – drafted last year – called on the government to implement the main recommendation from last year’s Senate inquiry into charity fundraising, by working with states and territories to deliver a nationally consistent model for regulating fundraising activities by February 2021.
But Leigh said the COVID-19 crisis meant action was needed sooner.
“National Federation Reform Council meetings are now occurring fortnightly, so there is no reason why the issue cannot be taken up by the end of the financial year, with a clear directive to officials to begin work,” he said.
“A permanent solution could be in place before the Christmas giving season if appropriate priority were given to it now.
“It is the right time to help charities. If the government wants to, as they put it, ‘build back better’ then this is a zero-cost way of removing the biggest administrative burden on the sector.”
Coalition MP Dr Anne Webster responded to Leigh’s motion on Wednesday, telling the House of Representatives that she did not agree that the government has failed to act on fundraising reform.
She said the government has consulted extensively with the sector in recent years and noted the Coalition’s pledge to reduce red tape for charities in its response to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission review.
“The government’s response to the review shows that we are committed to a regulatory regime for charities that fosters a vibrant and innovative sector,” Webster said.
“By reducing red tape, we will ensure charities are able to focus on serving their community, not simply ticking boxes.”
This call follows a push by the Charities Crisis Cabinet (CCC) in April for an emergency set of national fundraising rules to help struggling charities.
With charities facing an estimated 20 per cent slump in fundraising revenue, sector leaders urged governments to press pause on complicated state and territory fundraising requirements until the COVID-19 crisis was over.
Sue Woodward, who is head of Justice Connect’s Not-for-profit Law service and a member of the CCC, said the crisis cabinet was yet to receive any official response to their open letter.
But she told Pro Bono News there was still hope that government officials would take action on the issue.
“We understand there is a meeting of consumer affairs officials scheduled for 25 June. And we very much hope fundraising reform is on their agenda,” Woodward said.
“It is one of the most pressing issues for the sector, especially when the recent SVA report showed that so many charities are on the brink of being unviable.
“Fundraising reform is a no cost option to help charities trying to raise their own funds, so they can keep people employed, have volunteers, and deliver services.”